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Kickstarter Shuts Down Another Anonymous-Making Internet Router

Days after Kickstarter took down a campaign for Anonabox, the controversial Internet router that allegedly would keep its users anonymous, the company shut down a subsequent project that purported to fill its shoes.

See also: Kickstarter Shuts Down Anonabox Amid Controversy

TorFi, created by University of Michigan law graduate Jesse Enjaian and his friend David Xu, would have been a more honest incarnation of Anonabox. However, honesty doesn’t seem to be the solution where Kickstarter was concerned. The company closed down funding for TorFi after sending Enjaian an email that it wasn’t “innovative enough.”

“I’m frustrated because they claim that using pre-existing routers and modifying the software is not innovative enough for their standards,” Enjaian told ReadWrite. “I believe our idea filled a social need and was sufficiently unique, but I’m not going to challenge their decision.”

Unlike the previous project, TorFi was upfront about the fact that it was using a prefab hardware solution for the router, and simply installing the Tor security software on top of it. This may not sound like much, but it’s a service that’s clearly in demand. After all, Anonabox earned nearly $600,000—and this despite the controversy.

Enjaian, who once had law officials confiscate his computer during cyberstalking allegations while he was still a student, can especially empathize with why people might want to seek security and anonymity while browsing the Internet.

“TorFi aims to satisfy the demand demonstrated for a simple, plug-and-play, secure access point to the Internet… with no more technical knowledge than what it takes to plug into a home ISP connection,” he wrote on the project overview.

For people who are still seeking a plug-and-play anonymity solution for the Internet, Invizbox is on IndieGoGo and the crowdfunding site hasn’t shut it down—yet.

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Kickstarter Shuts Down Anonabox Amid Controversy


Kickstarter has suspended the crowdfunding campaign for Anonabox, a gadget that had earned nearly $600,000 from 9,000 backers in just a few days. Despite its popularity, it appears that the project ran afould of Kickstarter guidelines.

See also: Tiny Box Promises To Keep You Anonymous On The Internet

The gadget claimed to use a combination of the Tor privacy software and a custom, open-source hardware frame to create a tiny router that anonymized its users. However, as the device continued to ramp up in popularity, these claims came under fire.

When its creator, security consultant August Germar, gave an “Ask Me Anything” interview on Reddit about the project, he was unable to explain how the hardware was “custom” and not just a generic pre-produced item. Sleuths found exact copies of the Anonabox frame on Chinese suppliers’ sites. And given that those Chinese products turned out to be regular factory-made routers, many became suspicious of the Anonabox claim to keep users truly anonymous.

Kickstarter’s actions tends to support redditors’ claims. The company suspended the project Friday. Kickstarter did not and does not typically give a reason for project suspensions, but its terms of service state that all projects must be “honest and clearly presented.”

If this development hasn’t scared supporters away from the gadget, Germar told Quartz that the device will still be for sale on the project’s website

Photo via Anonabox

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Twitpic Is Now Shutting Down After All

First Twitpic was shutting down. Then it wasn’t. And now it is again.

After getting people’s hopes up that the photo repository might stick around a bit longer, Twitpic announced that it will indeed shut down on October 25.

See also: Twitpic, Already Sidelined By Twitter, Shuts Down After Trademark Spat

Former users can export their pictures and data through their account settings before the October 25 deadline, the company said in a statement on Thursday.

We worked through a handful of potential acquirers and exhausted all potential options. We were almost certain we had found a new home for Twitpic (hence our previous tweet), but agreeable terms could not be met.

Twitpic mosaic by evan courtney

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Reddit General Manager Announces Decision To Step Down by @mattsouthern

Long-standing Reddit General Manager, Erik Martin, announced his decision to leave the company today after serving as its GM for six years. Martin broke the news himself on Twitter: Hard decision, but after 6 outstanding yrs I’m leaving reddit. Thank you to everyone who helped me along the way & made it an amazing ride! — erik martin (@hueypriest) October 13, 2014 In addition to being named one of Time’s most influential people of 2012, Martin was also behind some of Reddit’s most character-defining moments. For example, under Martin Reddit was a major proponent against controversial tech policy SOPA/PIPA. With […]

The post Reddit General Manager Announces Decision To Step Down by @mattsouthern appeared first on Search Engine Journal.

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Man Who Shoots Down Neighbor’s Drone Raises Legal Questions

A man allegedly shot down his neighbor’s drone over the Jersey Shore last week, after it reportedly flew over his property. Russell J. Percenti, 32, was arrested and charged with possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose and criminal mischief,” but his predicament has opened up a slew of legal questions.

The neighbor said he’d been flying the device over a friend’s home to photograph construction when he heard some gunshots and immediately lost control of the drone. When he recovered the drone, he noticed the bullet holes and contacted the police. 

There a growing movement over the legality of shooting down drones. In 2013, a gunowner named Phil Steel introduced a proposal to issue drone-hunting licenses in his town of Deer Trail, Colorado. The proposal failed, but Steel said he planned  to sell drone-hunting licenses online and all over the country. Meanwhile, House contender Matt Rosendale of Montana used a drone-shooting stunt as part of his political campaign.

There’s also the Salvo 12 Shotgun Silencer, which advertises itself with a mascot named Johnny Dronehunter, a tough looking guy who shoots down six DJI Phantoms in one go in the name of defending privacy. Phantoms are hobby copters that go for $600 a pop and carry nothing more lethal than cameras.

See also: Five Quintessential Quadcopters

As drones that begin to dot America’s skies, they may start start fighting back. The Skunk Riot Control Copter, for instance, is armed with paint-ball cannons that fire off 80 pepper balls per second for “crowd suppression.”

Legally, drone hunting is still a gray area. The castle doctrine of common law posits that people have the right to defend their homes from attack. This isn’t extended to the sky above people’s homes, however. Otherwise airplanes would be in trouble. Ryan Calo, a robotics and cyber-law scholar at the University of Washington, said that the danger would have to be pretty apparent for you to be able to legally gun down a drone.

“You would probably have to be threatened physically, or another person or maybe your property, for you to be able to destroy someone else’s drone without fear of a counterclaim,” he told Gizmodo.

See also: Why Commercial Drones Are Stuck In Regulatory Limbo

Currently only hobby drones are allowed to fly in American airspace, so it’s extremely unlikely that a drone would threaten your property. Perhaps it’ll be easier to take drone-hunting licenses more seriously if and when drones become a problem.

Screenshot via Silencerco

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Amazon Doubles Down On The Connected Home

Amazon is quietly staffing up its Silicon Valley-based hardware lab as it gears up to create and test new connected home gadgets.

Lab126, the Amazon division behind hardware products like the Kindle Fire, will bring its full-time payroll to at least 3,757 in the next five years, Reuters reports in an exclusive story.

With this plan, detailed in an obscure government document, CEO Jeff Bezos’ plan to focus on hardware is affirmed. This despite lagging Kindle Fire sales and investors’ criticism of Amazon’s constant spending on long term pie-in-the-sky projects.

See also: Amazon Gets Serious About Hardware With 6 New Tablets

Anonymous sources told Reuters that Amazon will be investing $55 million into Lab126’s activities in an effort to prepare smart home devices to compete against Google and Apple.

Google, Apple, and now Amazon are all racing to create the ultimate platform for the Internet of things. In an era when dishwashers, refrigerators, and security systems have the potential to become self aware, technology companies all want to get in on the next big market.

The mobile phone industry has taught us that the device that ends up on top won’t only support the company’s products, but third party applications as well. As Amazon doubles down on the Internet of Things, it will need to work out a product that not only centralizes all the connected home devices, but streamlines the process better than anyone else.

Photo of Jeff Bezos by Steve Jurveston

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Reddit Shuts Down Stolen Celebrity Photo Forum

Within hours of stating it would not shut down one of the major forums sharing nude celebrity photos, Reddit did just that. 

Yishan Wong wrote in a Saturday blog post that the site would not shut down the r/thefappening (where fap is slang for masturbation), one of the major distribution points for the photos, or other questionable forums. 

Reddit removed the stolen celebrity photos soon after the leak, and according to Wong, Reddit’s employees “deplore the theft of these images and we do not condone their widespread distribution,” but was “unlikely to make changes” in spite of that. 

“[W]e consider ourselves … the government of a new type of community. The role and responsibility of a government differs from that of a private corporation, in that it exercises restraint in the usage of its powers.”

See also: Is Reddit Dropping The Ban Hammer On BuzzFeed?

However, Reddit was compelled to recede on its position and ban r/thefappening anyway. “What happened is that we wrote the blog post, and at approximately the same time, activity in that subreddit starting violating other rules we have which do trigger a ban, so we banned it,” Wong explained in an addendum to the blog post.

Predictably, the two events occurring at the same time caused a lot of confusion for Reddit’s users. Reddit employees worked to dispel them in a lengthy Q&A thread

Jason Harvey (aka alienth), Reddit’s senior system administrator, wrote an introduction to the thread where he emphasized “the press and nature of this incident obviously made this issue extremely public, but it was not the reason why we did what we did.” 

However, redditors were skeptical. The top comment brings up another subreddit that featured sexualized images of minors, which Reddit only banned in 2011 after it became CNN’s Anderson Cooper’s pet project. 

“You’re doing the exact same thing you do every time there’s bad press. Deal with it at the last possible moment once there’s bad press forcing you to do so. Then you play it off like some moral revelation and use free speech as the reason why it doesn’t set a precedent.”

See also: 4chan Will Now Remove Awful Images—If They’re Copyrighted

Reddit isn’t the only website attempting to wash its hands of this incident. Forum site 4chan, where the images are rumored to have originated, set up a new Digital Millennium Copyright Act policy page in the wake of the crime. Likewise, the Prostate Cancer Foundation rejected r/thefappenings’ donations to their cause, stating “we would never condone raising funds for cancer research in this manner.”

Photo by Eva Blue

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Twitpic, Already Sidelined By Twitter, Shuts Down After Trademark Spat

Millions of photo links across Twitter will soon succumb to linkrot. The service Twitpic, once a primary avenue for posting images to the microblogging service, is shutting down.

So get ready to export all your photos, because as of September 25, they’ll be gone for good.

In a blog post, Twitpic said it is winding down because of pressure from Twitter over its name. It claims Twitter demanded it drop its application to trademark the Twitpic name, originally filed in 2009. If it didn’t, Twitter allegedly threatened a death sentence of sorts. Technically, it would have cut off Twitpic’s access to the application programming interface (see our API explainer) that lets users post links to Twitpic images directly on Twitter. 

See also: Twitter Kills The API Whitelist: What It Means For Developers And Innovation

“Unfortunately we do not have the resources to fend off a large company like Twitter to maintain our mark which we believe whole heartedly is rightfully ours,” Twitpic founder Noah Everett wrote. So the company decided to close down instead.

Twitpic hasn’t provided a way to export photos yet, but Everett said the option will be available within the next few days.

The Mark, Not The Name

Twitter says Twitpic was free to continue using its name, but defended its trademark request as necessary to protect its brand. As a Twitter spokesperson put it in a statement emailed by the company:

We’re sad to see Twitpic is shutting down. We encourage developers to build on top of the Twitter service, as Twitpic has done for years, and we made it clear that they could operate using the Twitpic name. Of course, we also have to protect our brand, and that includes trademarks tied to the brand.

One possibility for Twitter’s intransigence on this point: If Twitpic won a trademark on its name, that might have set a precedent for other companies to similarly claim other variations on names starting with “Twit” name. That would obviously be an undesirable outcome from Twitter’s perspective.

So why didn’t Twitpic just keep the name and drop the trademark suit? A company’s unique identity is tied to their brand, and by trademarking a name, it ensures no one else can use it. Had Twitpic caved on this point, there wouldn’t have been anything to stop other companies from using its name in potentially unwelcome ways.

Twitpic could have also chosen to rename itself. Considering Twitter roadblocked the initial trademark attempt, though, it likely would have run into trouble with any other name bearing a resembance to “Twitter” as well.

Twitter-Centric Photo Sharing Apps Are Basically Pointless, Anyway

There may be another reason Twitpic chose to throw in the towel—namely, the fact that its service was apparently dwindling in popularity as Twitter itself shouldered it aside.

Twitpic and similar services such as yFrog rose to prominence five or so years ago by giving users a way to share photos directly on Twitter. But when Twitter dropped support for third-party photo sharing applications in 2012, and then created its own Instagram-like filters for images, third-party applications fell by the wayside.

Until recently, Twitpic remained the best service for uploading animated GIFs to share with friends, as Twitter didn’t support them. Then Twitter unveiled in-line GIF support, and Twitpic’s best argument for sticking around disappeared.

Twitpic might not have the resources to battle with Twitter over trademark issues, but it also may have just resigned itself to the inevitable: Twitter has rounded out its features to the point that users don’t need third-party photo services.

Lead image by

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LinkedIn Locks Down Security, But Opens Up Data Export

LinkedIn is offering new security features that give you new tools for securing and controlling your information on the professional-networking site.

For instance, LinkedIn will now alert you when your password changes—and will give you a sense of where that request originated as well. When you change your password, you’ll not only get an email notification, you’ll be able to see which browser and operating system was used, as well as the IP address and approximate location of the computer or device used to request the change.

That warning to “change your password right away” may look a little tardy, but it actually takes you to a password-reset form that requests your email address and then sends you instructions.

Another privacy safeguard shows you where else you’re logged into LinkedIn and lets you log out of sessions you’re not currently using. Additionally, the service now lets users export all their LinkedIn data—that is, your entire profile, and post history and a variety of other activity. You can export your information here.

It’s probably a good idea to do a cursory check of your privacy settings while exploring the new security features, especially if you haven’t updated them in a while. But thanks to new features, users will be more aware of where and how their data is accessed, which will help make users—and their data—more secure on the site.

Lead image by Coletivo Mambembe; screenshot courtesy of LinkedIn.

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Gaming Star PewDiePie Shuts Down Comments As YouTube’s Troll Problem Hits Critical Mass

YouTube achieved peak troll this week when PewDiePie, video gamer star of the video-sharing community’s most popular channel ever, disabled comments, cutting off onsite communication with his more-than 30 million subscribers. 

In a video titled “Goodbye Forever Comments,” PewDiePie, whose real name is Felix Kjellberg, addresses his fans, whom he affectionately calls “bros,” and explains that communicating with his fans in the YouTube comments system is almost impossible because of the overwhelming amount of spam and trolling:

“It’s been bothering me for so long now, I’ve been trying to find solutions to it. I was hoping that it would get better, I was hoping YouTube would try and figure a way out, but it doesn’t seem like it. I’m just sick of it, so I’m going to turn off the comments forever, they’re not coming back. I wouldn’t say that we lose something, I would say we’re taking the next step in the right direction, because it’s been going on for too long, these comments being shit.”

For the uninitiated, YouTube comments have long been a miserable cesspool of near-illiterate insults, obscenities and spam. There was never a time I’ve scrolled down to read comments on a YouTube video (whatever video it may be) and thought to myself, “why yes, that was a good idea.” 

See also: YouTube Is Chasing Hollywood—But It Should Worry About Its Homegrown Stars

This is a widely-shared sentiment amongst YouTube users, and yet the trolls keep coming. Now that the Google-owned site is spending big bucks on making its homegrown stars household names, the time for a fix is long overdue.  

It was only in May of this year that Kjellberg seemed to have a better handle on the comments system, posting a video titled “Mean Comments” where the YouTube gamer read and made good-natured fun of the troll comments on his videos. 

YouTube has tried to remedy their comment situation in the past. In September 2013, the company integrated Google+ to YouTube, so that comments from recognizable profiles were prioritized. With Google+, YouTube users were also encouraged to use their real names, which forced some less-than-pleasant users to come out from anonymity. 

After much pushback, this implementation ended in July 2014, when YouTube ended all restrictions on usernames that one could choose for the site. And once again, the trolls reared their ugly heads. 

See also: With Twitch, Amazon Has To Prove It Can Manage A Social Site

So what happens now? YouTube’s number one creator and veritable face of the brand has effectively cut off a significant portion of the video site as if it were an infected limb. Kjellberg would rather interact with his 30 million fans elsewhere, rather than the one part of the site that is meant for communication. That alone should send a message to YouTube loud and clear. 

The message is this: YouTube, get your comments system together. 

YouTube is heading on a high-speed train towards mainstream media, and will now be competing with Amazon-acquired Twitch, the livestreaming gaming site whose community chat is an integral part of its service. Service which is drawing millions of new users per month. Your move, YouTube. 

Images courtesy of PewDiePie

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